Battle Line

When I posted about our list of 1-100 we use to randomly pick a game I forgot to mention one of the best parts: if we roll 100 (double zeros on the dice) we buy a new game! My wife has a talent for rolling 100, and that’s how we ended up with Battle Line.

Battle Line is a 2 player card game. Like Brawl or Smash Up! there are bases in the middle each player tries to win. In this case there are 9 bases, and a player wins if he controls 5 of them or any 3 in a row.

Overhead view of a game in progress

The deck of cards consists of 6 colors with cards numbered 1-10 in each color. A player can play a maximum of 3 cards on each base. The base is won by the player with the best 3 card hand according to the following rankings (best hand first):

  • Straight Flush
  • 3 of a Kind
  • Flush
  • Straight
  • Any 3 cards

(The game has a “battles of ancient times” theme so the hands have names like Wedge, Phalanx, etc. but as usual I’m going to ignore the theme and only talk about gameplay)

If both players have the same hand type the one with the highest card wins (three 7s beat three 4s, a 9-8-7 straight flush beats a 8-7-6 straight flush, etc).

8-9-10 straight flush is the nuts in this game!

One really interesting thing is that a player can claim a base even if the other player hasn’t played the full 3 cards on it. For example, if I’ve played 9-8-7 yellow and you’ve played a 5 I can claim the base since you can’t possibly make a better hand than mine. Proving that you’ve won a base can get complicated because you can use cards in play as “evidence”. If I’ve played three 8s and you have two 10s but all the other 10s have been played I can claim the base since you can’t complete your better three of a kind. Proving you’ve won a base is a fun little puzzle game within the game. And once a base is claimed no one can play any more cards on it, so not only does claiming a base get you closer to victory, it narrows down your opponent’s choices.

Tactics cards are another facet that make Battle Line interesting. When you play a card you can either draw a regular card to replace it or you can grab a tactics card. Tactics cards have a variety of effects and they’re quite powerful. They’re balanced out by the fact that you can only play one more than your opponent has played. If I’ve played 1 you can only play a total of 2 (until I play another one). It makes for an interesting dynamic because you know playing a tactics card opens it up for your opponent to do the same.

Hmm, should I take another tactics card…?

It seems simple at first, but once you start you see there’s a lot of strategy to it. Of course you try to make as many straight flushes and 3 of a kinds as possible, but you HAVE to play one card each turn (and you can’t play on a base that’s been claimed), so you find your choices shrinking up rapidly. You’ll find yourself having to make some lousy hands and hoping for the best.

Luck plays a part, as it does in any card or dice game, but the strategy is there too. Game time is pretty quick, maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Not something you’ll want to play over and over again, but a nice little game to have in the collection.

Thanks for reading and comments are always welcome!

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4 Comments

Filed under 2 player games, card games

4 responses to “Battle Line

  1. When we first started playing this, I thought maybe it would be one to replay a lot, but you’re right that it’s not really an over-and-over game. Well not at this point, anyway. I think those initial rows are all kind repetitive since everyone’s aiming for straight flushes. I guess I kind of wish that didn’t trump everything else, though I don’t know exactly how that would work.

  2. What is the potential on this one for home brew add ons? From your description it sounds like a game that would not get expansions from the publisher, but there may be ways to add things like a dice element or something to add more options and challenges to the game. Or is the rules set too well regimented to really allow you to mod it in your own way?

    • dantherpgman

      Funny, whenever we play this I always think, “This game might be cool with some Intrigue cards…” I don’t know how well they would work though. It seems like it would be pretty hard to mod this game without taking away from its basic concepts, but maybe it could be done.

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